Eventually we find an unused interrogation room. I sit in one of the chairs while Ed paces about.

"I don't mind telling you, Sam, this is getting seriously scary," says Ed to me. That was the last thing I needed to hear. Pretty much everything Ed has ever done - the hoop wormhole, the messages woven into the fabric of reality, the switch - has scared me to a greater or lesser extent. But Ed has never been the least bit fazed by his experiments. He always comes up smiling. Until today I kinda thought that was because he was slightly insane.

But Ed is scared too. Ed, destroyer of galaxies, creator of microscopic universes.

"Why?" I ask, against my better judgement.

"The first thing I want to know is why we travelled back in time in the first place. What happens in our future which is so bad that we are willing to leave behind everyone we hold dear and become time travellers? A lot can happen in four hundred and fifty billion iterations of the same two days. Heck, I bet at least a few dozen of us have broken our legs stepping out of the time machine, just by chance. But if the very first Ed and Sam were anything like us, it's possible that what happened to them could happen again, to us. We don't even know how far into the future the first Ed and Sam came back from - it could be a day or a year or a hundred. Is a nuclear war on the cards, or something worse?

"The second thing that worries me is the extent to which our past selves could be lying to us. Even discounting the distortion that even the most carefully-reproduced truths will experience after being copied a half-trillion times, when we look at ourselves, how trustworthy do we seem? Do you think it's likely that at some point in however many iterations, Ed and Sam impulsively decided to spin a web of lies to the next Ed and Sam, chose a number at random, stuck it on a disk and forwarded it to them? And that could have happened a million iterations back. The lie could have been forwarded so many times that neither us nor Ed-A and Sam-A nor the Ed and Sam preceding them even had an inkling of the real truth."

"I wouldn't lie," I volunteer.

"Wouldn't you? Think about chaos theory. The arrival of our alternate selves and the events proceeding on from then can be subtly different in an unimaginable number of ways. Surely it wouldn't be too improbable that the exact circumstances might come about that would persuade us to lie? Even to ourselves?" Ed sees my utterly confused look. "Trust me, it's possible.

"Lastly, I'm not even sure that those two people ARE you and me."

"Oh, come on, now that's just paranoia! What would the Kerrig Facility scientists stand to gain from such deception? They look EXACTLY like us. Their clothes are exact duplicates of ours even down to the little rips and tears. Their speech and mannerisms are ours, although to be honest I didn't think my voice sounded that silly, and they know everything we know - you saw the DNA test results."

"Come on, Sam, I know how to clone people! They could have ripped the cloning technology right from my own computer! And you of all people know how much of a threat to society I am; the odds of me flipping out, deciding to conquer the planet and actually pulling it off are much too risky. Putting me away for good, by means of vaporizing me in that disintegrator-cum-'time machine', would be good for world safety. No, we need some way to be certain."

"Well, how about the time travel passwords?"

Ed claps his hands together. "Brilliant! I should have thought of that!" He rushes to the door and opens it--

Standing outside are Sam-A and Ed-A. "Your time travel password is the phrase 'Laser Squid Nemesis,' says Sam-A to me.

"Yours is a symbol: a Greek capital phi with a square instead of a circle," says Ed-A to Ed. "We were as paranoid as you were. We came to the exact same room and probably had a very similar conversation."

"There's no way you can prove that jazz about there being billions of iterations of us. There's no way the previous Ed and Sam could have proved it to you, for that matter."

"Right, and they didn't. We took it on trust. If we can't trust ourselves, who can we trust?" asks Sam-A.

After an uneasy pause, I eventually relent. "Well, I trust me."

"I guess so," says Ed-B, reluctantly, eyeing his counterpart suspiciously. "Alright. Give us the disk."


All this is happening so fast that we might even be able to get back to the UK before the serious jet lag sets in. We have a much-needed meal at the Kerrig Facility canteen and then head back to the time machine room.

Using the (digital) blueprints and technical readouts that Ed-A brought from the previous timeline - blueprints which we KNOW work perfectly due to the fact that both they and their couriers made it here intact - the Kerrig scientists have successfully configured what they are 99.999% sure is a working time machine, capable of admitting the two of us safely. A digital copy of the 'prints has been made and we're taking it back with us, along with the floppy disk and its recently-incremented and possibly arbitrary number.

Ed and I slouch in what is, indeed, a cannibalised elevator car, while around us final checks are made and the component which - while technically containing nothing more entertaining than an Io-worthy quantity of electrical energy - has been affectionately dubbed the "flux capacitor" starts charging.

The final countdown starts. Ed-A and Sam-A have informed us of exactly what to expect in around sixty seconds' time, when we will - if all goes to plan - materialise uninvited in the centre of an incredibly secret scientific installation, set off several alarms and attract the attention of a dozen gun-toting US marines. They say that holding our arms up and saying "we surrender" might be a good idea.

"When are we coming out, exactly?" I ask Ed.

"Well, sending us back to anytime after Ed- and Sam-A appeared in this timeline would only complicate matters unimaginably further, by introducing a third pair of us. Sending us back to the exact time they appeared runs an uncertain risk of us being annihilated by them - or vice-versa - as both of us attempt to materialise in the same location at the same time. So instead we're going back a little further - one nanosecond, to be precise. It's all determined by atomic clocks so there's nothing to worry about on the accuracy front."

"What if they appear right after we do?"

"A googolplex to one."



"Hey you guys," says a voice which seems to be coming over the intercom. It's Sam-A. "I just wanted to say, it was pretty cool running into an alternate set of us. Both times. Although the second time is much more enjoyable since you already know what happens, mostly. You'll find out for yourself in about sixteen seconds."

There's a digital readout in the transport chamber, and I glance at it as it ticks downwards. Fifteen. Fourteen. "Yeah," adds Ed-A. "I've got one more piece of advice for my counterpart, though." Ed-B, our Ed, stands up and peers through the tiny window at Ed-A. The intercom is one-way but they still have visual contact, at least. Eight. Seven. "Ed, you listen to this very carefully... are you listening?" Five.

Ed-B nods. Four. Three.



previous | Ed stories | next

My bubble of security has popped. I tried to revolt against my fear of new things by taking a spontaneous adventure to a place that has no relevance to anything with no real plan of where I was going and what I'd do when I got there. It only exhausted me and left me with more questions than when I began.

Wait. Let's go back a few weeks so I can paint a more full picture.

After several years of working for a bottom-rung newspaper with no possible way of getting anywhere (though the people I worked with were awsome), I began a quest for new job, with eventual success. Nervousness took quite a while to set in, but it washed over me quite quickly once it did. I realized how not-like-me it was to leave such a comfortable environment for the unknown. When I realized my fear of spontaneity and new things and how much of a hinderance it was and could be, I decided that it was time for the open road. I went to weather.com and just started typing in zip codes in the "your local weather" section until I found a place that was warm and a reasonable drive for a 4 to 6 day trip between jobs. After happening upon a few places that didn't really strike my fancy, I came to 31411... Savannah Georgia. Weather reports 75 and sunny, and only a 12 hour drive. PERFECT!

The plan is, there are no plans. Just go to Savannah and make my way back up the coast to good ol' OHIO. I got a check for my unused vacation from the old job and off I was to see the east coast alone. My photography course only had 2 more weeks till it was over, so this trip was largely photography-based. Shoot as many rolls of black and white 35 mm film as possible, and have a good time doing it!

I didn't really know what to do with myself at first. With no real destination, it's hard to know when you get there. And with no real goals, it's hard to know if you accomplish anything. I ended up on some island near Savannah called Tybee Island at about 2:30 in the morning, unable to get out of a circling residential area near the shore. After stumbling upon the beach and hesitantly and briefly exploring it's moon-lit offerings, I got a hotel and set up shop for 2 nights. I walked the shores alot in Tybee, making up silly games for myself to play (like trying to walk along the edge of where the ocean meets the land just like I'm walking on a wire in a circus (thanks Counting Crows)) and trying to make a good time out of it, but it was mostly kind of akward. There were a few really cool times, but it was pretty lonely most of the time. I took lots of pictures and kept to myself for the most part, just watching people and the unknown world around me. I did get to play in the sand. I had to catch up on my sand sculpting, which turned out to be awsome!

Dining by yourself in a restaurant gets some odd reactions. The first time I went to a sit-down restaurant in Georgia, the hostess immediatly paired me up with another family because there's no way I was there alone. But, alas, I was. It was funny how the family that I was assumed to be with responded. They didn't really want to shun me, so they kinda look at me with a speechless akward grin and confused eyes, waiting for me to declare my independence, which I did.

After Tybee Beach, I headed north. I knew a guy who was living in Atlanta, and got his phone number from a friend to try to get ahold of him while I was in the area. It turned out that he was going to North Carolina for a wedding, which was coincidentally exactly where I was off to on the same day. We were pretty much fated to meet up and hang out. He's the kind of friend that I have known forever, but never was REALLY GOOD friends with. We would have never ended up together in North Carolina in any other circumstances, but it turned out to be very comfortable and quite enlightening. Once we met up, it was smooth sailing.

I was there for 2 days and 3 nights. The first day, I drove all over the Moorehead City area, taking in everything I could, trying to stay away from all the touristy areas. The second day, my friend and I drove the outer banks, stopping for lunch, ice cream and 2 ferry rides, all the way to virginia, and then followed the inland shore back to our starting point. It was an all day driving experience. I got to see several waves of dolphins swimming freely up the coast of the ocean for the first time, which was oddly amazing. I just couldn't get over how good it made me feel to see them swimming so close to me, and I really have no idea why.

The next morning, which turned out to be Easter (and I only knew that because the Gas station attendent wished me a happy one as I left North Carolina), it was back to Ohio, where a new job and an encroaching uncertainty paved my way.

I didn't count on the trip and the new job being back to back to take so much out of me. The first week of my new job, I went to work, then came home and passed out on the couch, only to get up and go to work the next morning... nothing else. I am finally getting my energy back, but it took quite a while.

So... after all was said and done, and the odometer 2,400 miles higher than before, I found myself stumped... questioning what was really important in life. The trip made me aware that I could go where ever I wanted, which was a bit freeing, but difficult to fully swallow. It also made me aware of the importance of the people around me. There was no loyalty waiting for me at my new job... no friends. Just some people in a building, there to get a paycheck and go home. But I guess that's how everything is. It's all as personal or impersonal as you want it to be.

8:00 AM CST.

In an hour I will begin a load of laundry which is way past due- the whites. At 10 I will take a shower. At 11 I will begin to get ready for work. At 11:30 I will head off to work. At noon I will arrive at work.

I will flip (tidy up) the rooms, I will vacuum, I will set out chairs for the wedding that is being hosted. Before and during the wedding I will stand outside and handle the parking situation.

The forecast calls for rain, pretty much all day. It has been raining steadily for going on three days straight now and it looks like there will be more of the same tomorrow.

I detest rain and I will be standing in it all day today.

Today my rate of pay will officially diminish from $12 to $10/hour- my employer feels that my performance has been lacking lately, while I point out that it wouldn't seem that way if she would avoid handing me extraneous stuff in the middle of my normal duties, that it is hard to maintain or develop a routine when it is broken frequently.

I am rested and I am caffeinated and I have a script to follow.

Rain in the forecast. "Here is your rain, madam. I trust you will be more careful with it next time."

I found out today, that an online friend died. She was a member of bipolarworld.com. So am I. I am not sure how I should feel. I only talked to her a few times. The thing is, I tried so hard to help her. I brought that to e2. Mama Susie helped so much. That night was not in vain. Keeping her alive for that much longer gave people the oppurtunity to know it was coming, and to come to terms with it. To say goodbye.

The following is a letter I wrote to her today, and a modified version of what I posted on the message board on bpw.

I know you’ve left this world, I know you cannot read this letter, but I have to write it anyway. Perhaps you can read it, no one really knows for sure what happens after we leave this world, and even if you can’t, well, at least I know I wrote it, and I put these things into words.

I never really knew you all that well. I’d seen you in the chatroom, #bipolarworld. We’d chatted there a bit. Not a whole lot though. Then one night you came in, I know when it was, I have the logs of the conversation. You were not doing well at all. You were talking of suicide. We knew you weren’t going to die that night, not from the pills you had already taken. What you took could have hurt you bad, however. There were not many people in the chat room at the time. I was one of the few. None of us were able to call 911 for various reasons. We found a way though. We may have done wrong, someone in the chat gave me your information, real name, home address, and phone number. That was a betrayal of your trust, I suppose, but it was done to help you. We didn’t want you to get hurt.

After that night I talked to you once. You asked me for the logs. I emailed them to you. I told you I was sorry. I told you I was just trying to help. You said you would never speak to me again. You were very angry with me. I was sure you hated me.

I became afraid. I stopped going to the chatroom. I went in a couple times under an alias, so you wouldn’t know it was me. And you talked about me. You said some really mean things. It upset me. You made me very frightened when you talked about finding jbirdy and making her pay your hospital bills and at one point you said you wanted to punish jbirdy. I do understand. I don’t think you ever could have hurt me or ever really wanted to, and you had good reason to be angry. I would have been angry if you had done the same to me. I just hope you know that we did it out of love for you, because we care about you.

In a way, I am glad you left this world. Not because of fear of you, but because your death means you are no longer suffering here. I know, as well as everyone at bipolarworld, how horrible this disease can be. The depression. The mania. The rapid cycles. The mixed states. The loneliness. The pain. It’s difficult. The feeling alone even among people who care. So many of us have felt these things, and many more. It is understandable that the need to leave this world has invading so many of our thoughts. I found out you were gone when someone in the chatroom asked “how did gershon die?” I had not been paying much attention to the room but began crying immediately. I was both sad, wishing I could have helped you, and glad, because I know you are in a better place now.

My biggest hope is that you knew we cared and that you died with little or no pain. I hope you understood we would have helped you more if we knew how. I also hope you know that we are not angry at you for leaving, but are sad. You will be greatly missed. By myself, by everyone on bipolarworld, and by many others. More people cared about you that you will ever know.

You were loved, and always will be. Goodbye.


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